MUMBAI, India – Cardinal Oswald Gracias of Bombay said his reappointment to Pope Francis’s Council of Cardinals was “for continuity,” after the pontiff announced new members to the advisory body.
Gracias, American Cardinal Seán Patrick O’Malley of Boston, and Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin are the only original members of the so-called C-9 reappointed by Francis, although Congolese Cardinal Fridolin Ambongo of Kinshasa joined the body in 2020. The new members are Spanish Cardinal Fernando Vérgez Alzaga, President of the Governorate of Vatican City State; Spanish Cardinal Juan José Omella of Barcelona; Canadian Cardinal Gérald Lacroix of Quebec; Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich of Luxembourg; and Brazilian Cardinal Sérgio da Rocha of San Salvador de Bahia.
Gracias spoke with Crux about the importance of the Church in India after news of his appointment was made public.
“The Church in India is very vibrant. It is a small population which nears about 2.3 percent of the population in India but it is vibrant. We have 174 dioceses all over coming from three Churches – the Latin Church, the Syro-Malabar and Syro-Malankara,” the cardinal said.
Despite its small size the Church is overrepresented in the educational, health, and charitable sectors in India. The Catholic Church runs over 14,000 educational establishments and 1800 health care facilities.
“The vibrancy of the Church is seen not only in the attendance at Sunday Mass but also in the involvement and participation of the faithful in different activities of the Church’s mission. Our main activity in the Churches is not only pastoral work but also education. We have schools which serve the people without discrimination of faith and caste and works for nation building through empowerment of all peoples through education,” he continued.
“Besides education, our focus is on the rural areas of the Church in India and the girl child. We are very concerned that girls may not get sufficient education. Then in social work and self-help groups, which empower women through skills and makes them financial independent,” Gracias explained.
“Our religious personnel engage themselves in multifaceted apostolates, and many lay faithful are collaborators – with the preferential option aiming at giving fuller life to the oppressed and the poor having in mind the interventional needs of the society and the mission needs of the Catholic Church in India,” he said.
“Our focus on schools and vocational training for our specially challenged children and people with special needs is bearing great fruit for the children themselves and for their families and society as well. It is great to see their integration and dignity and self-esteem in the society, our religious personnel are serving them with professionalism and love, and it is a great joy for the Church in India. It is a great joy for us to do this work as disciples of Jesus,” he said.